One thing I love about philately is that, unlike say beanie babies or the travesty that became baseball card collecting in the 1980s and 1990s, stamps are real. What I mean is that they serve a useful function beyond being beautiful miniature works of art. Put it on an envelope and you can send it anywhere in the country, all for a mere 44 cents.
Those who know their Civil War know that letters were indispensable both for military purposes and to the morale of soldiers and their loved ones on the home front. No one understood this better than the military and civilian leadership of the time, which explains why the mail systems of both the North and South worked as well as they did throughout the conflict.
The United State Postal Service released a beautiful series of stamps during the Centennial fifty years ago and now they are doing the same for the 150th anniversary. Today in Charleston the Post Office unveiled the first two issues in its Civil War sesquicentennial series. One is a circa 1861 Currier and Ives reproduction of Fort Sumter in flames and the other is a painting of the fighting on Henry Hill at First Manassas. There will be two each year through 2015. Souvenir sheets are also available while supplies last.
I don’t collect stamps as an investment but I was at the ASDA stamp show at the New Yorker hotel this past Sunday and the five souvenir sheets from the 50th anniversary of the Second World War in the mid-1990s were selling for almost $100 a set. The Civil War stamps will be equally prized in years to come. First Day Covers are a particularly fun way to introduce kids to philately. Who doesn’t like getting mail? To order FDCs for the Fort Sumter and Bull Run stamps, read the USPS press release.